AFTER licking the Royal Mail in a 10-year battle to get their postal service restored, the owners of the little island of Sanda have returned to a tradition of printing their own stamps.

The tradition was started by the Russell family in the 1960s with the help of a printer in Girvan, but fell by the wayside in 1970 when stamps - featuring the Apollo moon landing in 1969 - were printed for Jack Bruce of Cream, the pop group, who owned the island, which sits at the convergence of the Irish Sea and the Firth of Clyde.

Now, Meg Gannon and her husband Dick, the owners of Sanda, which extends to 314 acres and is only about half a mile in diameter, have issued four new Sanda stamps.

Mrs Gannon said: ''The island has a stamp-producing history dating from the residency of the Russell family - who owned Sanda for 50 years.

''The stamps are known as Cinderella stamps or carriage labels and must be used in conjunction with a normal GPO stamp.''

She said they had also produced first day covers. ''It was a complex process and a steep learning curve for us. The stamps were produced professionally in Walsall by printers who also produce for the GPO.

''The specially printed envelopes had to be sealed, a GPO stamp precisely applied to the right hand side and then all 1500 covers were personally delivered, in a 280-mile round trip, to be cancelled using a specially commissioned Sanda stamp at the hand stamp centre in Rutherglen, Glasgow.''

The (pounds) 1 stamp pictures the very top of the Sanda lighthouse, the 75p is a picture of the Byron Darnton tavern, the 50p stamp is a stunning aerial view of the island and the 25p illustrates a group of Sanda puffins.

Earlier this year, the Gannons opened the Byron Darnton, one of the most remote and inaccessible pubs in Scotland, after overcoming a series of setbacks - including a lightning strike, a lost boat and mooring, and foot-and-mouth.

Mrs Gannon added: ''We have sold quite a few stamps and first day covers in advance. A lot of local people have bought them to send to relations.

''But we have also had interest from the US and even had people in Russia and Scandinavia tendering to print them. But we thought it safer to go with a British printer.''